On Moms and Motherhood: Rica Peralejo on First Loves and Slipping Time

Image courtesy of Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio. Art by Bea Lu.

On Mother’s Day 2024, Vogue Philippines celebrates with personal anecdotes from our collaborators about their experiences with motherhood.

Here, Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio shares her perspective on fast growing children, and a love that is one of a kind, undeserved, and unconditional.

He entered the car with a pair of shoes and immediately realised they were not his but his mother’s. “They look so much like mine, I’m sorry,” he apologized.

What he didn’t understand though was that he grabbed them not only because they were alike in design but also in size. My firstborn is now wearing a shoe size as big as mine. The little boy who could barely fit the length of my torso when he was born is about to outgrow his size-seven-wearing-mother. And I have no idea if children notice how big they’ve grown or only their mothers do.

Because to a mother it is acute. The way we know they are farther and farther from the day they were attached to us. Cutting the cord is the first step away from your unique bond and from that point on the ties are only going to get looser. Because that’s the direction of motherhood; we raise and nurture people in a way that they will need us less and less.

If we really think about it, this is a painful story to tell. I would even classify it as tragedy. Imagine you were given the task to love someone with all your heart and to whom you must dedicate your entire life over, only to find out in the end that you are supposed to live separate ones. Once I said that the main difference of marriage with motherhood is that we lose our independence to be one with our spouses and inversely, we have to consciously wean our children from the oneness that they have with us so they can be their own force in the world.

That’s hard because it doesn’t really come up until quite some time so you are fooled to believe for many, many, years that they cannot live without you until the day your illusion is interrupted with, “Can I have a party with my friends, and can the adults stay in another room away from us?” He is differentiating, and already at 10? I have to be honest that I was taken aback. Maybe even a little bit offended. Why, I make things happen around here so I must have at least the right to say where I’d like to stay in your party, right? 

Image courtesy of Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio

But that’s the wrong response. Children didn’t ask to be born. We wanted to have them and it remains to be my duty to give the best life possible with no air of entitlement. Children must respect us, they must nurture a relationship with us, but they aren’t supposed to lose themselves for us. They were born to be their own. It just hurts a lot when it’s finally happening because since you laid your eyes on them, you swore that for their life you would forget yours. Then the day comes when they remember you less and it happens right around the time when you also find it so hard to remember yourself. Who was I before you guys happened? What were the things I liked again? Might I go back and resurrect the pursuits I killed so you could live? But is it too late now? Has the ship sailed and is there no more way for me to get on it? 

When my first child was born I remember telling my cousin that motherhood is very little sleep with a thousand questions. Ten years later I am still the same. It’s still a struggle to sleep and I still have a lot of questions. Mothers of adult children say they still can’t rest well at night still thinking of them and their apo [grandchildren], so I think sleep is for everyone except moms. Funny though that while we know sleep deprivation is very unhealthy, moms somehow make it. Through bleeding nipples and poor recovery, moms power through and a chosen few even become athletes. 

Image courtesy of Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio
Image courtesy of Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio

Speaking of which, I’d like to be one. But the toss up is in being one myself or my sons getting their physical and mental development as top priority. Case in point: I badly wanted to join the Spartan Race last year, but I found myself buying a race for them instead. I console myself by thinking maybe next year can be momma’s year but still, that year has come and come again and it hasn’t happened. The window hasn’t opened for me yet as it has for some mothers.

Even amongst us there are different realities that coincide with our mothering and thereby make it possible or impossible to fulfill our own dreams. So I speak only for myself and others like me who let motherhood be our main sport. And just like any other challenging endeavor we are sustained to endure it with all its asks by being firmly rooted in our “why.”

Thankfully, mine comes by every day through their precious faces, innocence, and earnest hearts. Though every once in a while they articulate it in a way that explains for all the joys, pains, highs, and lows, of our mission. 

“Someday, you boys should find a girl you love, and who also loves you,” their father said. 

“I don’t want to!” My second born vehemently  replied. “Because Mama is the girl I most love!” 

Image courtesy of Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio

When a mother is tired and incurring much loss she sometimes forgets that she, too, is deeply and purely loved. Even before a child learns how to speak or even understand the concept of love, he already is there, unable to live a day without his very first human, very first home, very first love. No one else gets to be this uniquely important in their life but their mother and when we see the privilege in the midst of pain, our eyes hopefully brighten with the thought that costs don’t count when we make back more than we deserve.

See, there is an entire market of hopes and dreams for sale in the world but the older I get, the more I know that love is the harder thing to come by. Yet our children do it wholeheartedly with no regard for our who we are, the kind of job we have, the position we hold in our company or if we even own one, and how many miles we cover in a week for our runs. To them, it is more than enough that you are present, warm, and available, which they’ll be ready to reciprocate in the form of immense trust and total adoration.

Yes, in your milk-soaked-shirt, through your falling hair and throbbing scars, oh you, sleepless beauty, are also currently the love of his life. And it never fails, every child who came along had me looking into their eyes made me see that it is just right to give up all the things I could be for all the things they are. That I have all of tomorrow to worry for the kind of empty-nester I will be, but today is a chance at a love that is one of a kind, undeserved, and unconditional. 

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